Decreasing emissions from cars is a critical component of combatting climate change. On August 2, 2018, Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler released a proposal to lower the greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2021-2026, which could increase U.S. oil consumption by 881,000 barrels per day by 2035 and cost car owners $1,650 over the lifetime of their vehicle. Not only would this proposal further hinder our response to climate change, the added gas costs will impact low-income families the most.
From now until October 26, 2018, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are collecting comment from the public on this proposed change.
Tell the EPA and the NHTSA that you want to keep existing car emissions standards that can make real climate progress. Then urge your governor to adopt the California emissions standards so your state can lower its emissions with or without the EPA.
Transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S., trailing only emissions to produce electricity. Cars and light trucks make up 60% of our annual transportation emissions. This means making our cars cleaner is crucial in the fight against climate change.
Before the Clean Air Act was passed, California had already regulated air pollution in order to combat significant pollution problems in the LA valley. In recognition of California’s existing regulations, the Clean Air Act specifically allowed California to create its own clean air standards as long as those standards were at least as stringent as the federal standards. It also allowed states to adopt the California standards and join California in their more ambitious regulations.
In 2012, after an extensive research and comment period with input from automakers, advocates, and the public, the Obama administration set ambitious but achievable car emissions standards. These standards harmonized the regulations from the NHTSA, the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board to create a single standard across the nation. On August 2, 2018 Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler announced a final proposal to lower Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards for cars and light trucks model years 2021-2026. The proposal would also revoke the waiver that allows California to set higher car emission standards than the federal standards. These rollbacks are an arbitrary revision of the standards which were reviewed and found reasonable in January 2017.
Climate change is a real threat that we need to deal with now. Some estimates indicate that climate change is already responsible for 400,000 deaths worldwide each year, and some estimates peg the Trump administration’s environmental rollback at a cost of 80,000 U.S. resident lives per decade. Rolling back federal standards would weaken our already inadequate response to climate change and cause an estimated 140,000 cases of respiratory ailments in American children over the next decade.
Robust emissions standards also help low-income Americans by saving them money at the pump. The EPA estimates that the standards would save car owners $1,650 over the lifetime of their vehicle, savings which are especially critical for low-income Americans.
States can have a big impact in keeping America’s cars clean. The Clean Air Act allows states to choose to join the California standard, which means that states can choose to avoid the proposed lower EPA standards. Joining the California standard not only protects the air quality of states that join, it can help create change nation-wide too. If enough states join the California standard, car manufactures might choose not to create two versions of their vehicles (one to conform to the lower EPA standard and one to conform to the higher California standard) and just make cars to sell nationwide that follow the California standard. So far, 13 states have joined the California standard. The EPA and NHTSA’s proposed rule would revoke the waiver which allows California to set its own standard, which, if the rule is adopted, would also mean that the states on the California standard would be forced to the federal standard. However, it is still important for states to join the California standard now, as these states could join California in challenging an unprecedented revocation of the waiver.
Tell the EPA you support robust clean car standards, then ask your governor to move your state to adopt the California standards and keep your state clean regardless of the standards the federal government sets.
Jewish tradition teaches, “Do not destroy my world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to make it right again” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). The Talmudic concept bal tashchit, “do not destroy,” is derived from Deuteronomy 20:19–20 and was developed by the rabbis into a prohibition on senseless waste. Undoing regulations which encourage conservation furthers the waste of resources that our tradition abhors.